Dr Virginia ApgarDr. Virginia Apgar, (June 7, 1909 – August 7, 1974) was an American obstetrical anesthesiologist best known as the inventor of the Apgar Score, a way to quickly assess the health of a newborn child immediately after birth. She was a leader in the fields of anesthesiology and teratology, and introduced obstetrical considerations to the established field of neonatology.

What is the apgar score?

The APGAR score is taken at one minute after birth to assess how well the infant fared during childbirth and then again at 5 minutes of life. If the 5-minute score is low, the test might be scored a third time at 10 minutes. The assessment covers 5 key areas: skin colour, heart rate, grimace response, activity, and respiration. In summary, the Apgar score is based on a total score of 1 to 10. The higher the score, the better the baby is doing after birth. A score of 7, 8, or 9 is normal and is a sign that the newborn is in good health

10 Thing You Should Know About Dr. Virginia Apgar

Dr. Apgar re-imagined maternal care globally, and was brave, intelligent, adventurous, strategic and, by all accounts, warm and fun-loving. The woman who developed the APGAR score was accomplished in many ways!

Fact 1: The youngest of three children, Apgar was born and raised in Westfield, New Jersey, the daughter of Helen May (Clarke) and Charles Emory Apgar As a student in New Jersey during the early 20th century, Virginia participated on no less than seven different sports teams, performed in school productions, and was a regular contributor to her school’s newspaper.

Fact 2: A Mount Holyoke graduate, Apgar was one of a few women to complete her graduation during the 1930s from Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons (1933). In 1937 she successfully completed a residency in surgery at Columbia. However, she was rejected from practicing surgery by Dr. Allen Whipple, the chair of surgery at Columbia. She finished her training in anesthesia and returned to Columbia in 1938 as director of the newly formed division of anesthesia.

Fact 3: In 1938, Dr. Apgar became the first woman to head a division at Columbia University and Presbyterian Hospital when she was named Director of Anesthesiology.

Fact 4: Until 1946, when the validity of anesthesiology as a specialty was recognized within the medical profession, Dr. Apgar had been the sole staff member in the anesthesiology division and even had to write the text book for her students herself!

Fact 5: She was known to carry a penknife, an endotracheal tube, and a laryngoscope with her at all times just in case someone stopped breathing.

Fact 6: In 1994 she was commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp and in 1995 she was (posthumously) inducted into the US National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Fact 7: APGAR was not an acronym until 1962, when one of her students renamed the areas of focus to suit the letters in her name (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration), making it easier to remember – apparently she was delighted by this.

Fact 8: Over her incredible career and lifetime, Dr. Apgar published more than 60 papers and a book called Is My Baby All Right?with Joan Beck. The book is still available for purchase on Amazon.

Fact 9: Eventually she become interested in congenital birth defects and how the drugs that anesthesiologists administer might influence such an outcome. After joining the faculty in pediatrics at the Cornell University School of Medicine, Dr. Apgar became the first person to hold a faculty position dedicated to teratology (the study of congenital disabilities).

Fact 10: In 1959, Dr. Apgar left Columbia to lead the National Foundation – March of Dimes, where she raised awareness and funds for research into birth-defects. She died as an unmarried lady on August 7, 1974, aged 65, at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. The Virginia Apgar Award is given every year by the American Academy of Pediatrics for outstanding contributions to the field of perinatal pediatrics.



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